South-East Asia is one of the most popular regions for travellers looking for adventure, particularly those at university intending to travel over the summer break or those taking a post-graduation trip. Thailand is nearly always on travellers’ hit-lists, with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos also becoming well established places to visit. However some of South-East Asia’s treasures are often missed by travellers who follow the most popular routes. Indonesia has an amazing 17,000 islands (STA Travel, 2013), so provides the perfect opportunity to explore! This article provides a snapshot of the incredible experience that travelling to Indonesia offers, as well as some of the places not to be missed when you get there…
Bali is popular amongst travellers for its pristine beaches, offering the opportunity to relax, but also providing some of the best surfing spots in Indonesia. There are many surf schools in Bali, offering inexpensive lessons from novice level through to advanced – the perfect opportunity to pick up a new skill!
Bali is an incredibly vast place, so it is essential to travel around and not to stay in one spot. Kuta offers some of the best nightlife on the Island, as well as good shopping opportunities; Bukit has some of the best beaches in Bali; and Ubud has its own unique attraction, with temples (unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Islamic, Bali is Hindu), rice paddies, and coffee plantations to explore.
The Gili Islands comprise three different islands; Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. The Gili’s can only be reached by boat from the mainland, Lombok. “Each of these pearls, located just off the north-western tip of Lombok, has its own unique character, but they have one thing in common. They are all hard to leave”. (Lonely planet, 2012)
Gili Air is the island closest to the mainland, and Gili Meno is the smallest island; both are perfect for ultimate relaxation, with serene beaches and a very laidback pace. Gili Trawangan or ‘Gili T’ on the other hand is often referred to as the party island, with the Guardian describing it as ‘The new Ibiza’. Although the island has a reputation for partying it also has beautiful beaches, and great scuba diving spots. A good way to get around the island and explore what it has to offer is by pushbike, as the Gili Islands do not have any motorised transport.
Gili Trawangan offers a hedonistic atmosphere, and the competitively priced alcohol on offer is often an attraction for travellers. However it is important to be extremely cautious of cheap alcohol, which is not always filtered and can contain the poisonous chemical methanol. The locally made spirit ‘Arak’ has been responsible for numerous deaths of foreigners due to methanol poisoning so make sure you exercise caution with what you decide to drink. However with no police presence and very basic medical care, it is essential to think about the risks involved. For advice check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) travel advice web pages, which have loads of tips for travellers.
Sunrise from the top of Mount Bromo is an incredible experience, and the views of the landscape are best just as the sun begins to rise. In summer this can often mean waking up at around 3:30AM, however it is a view not to be missed! The most popular option for backpackers is to sleep in Cemoro Lawang, the village nearest the rim, then follow the path, which takes less than an hour, to view the sunrise.
• When entering Indonesia all UK nationals are required to purchase a tourist visa, at approximately 60GBP. However the visa needs to be paid for either in US dollars, as opposed to the local currency (Indonesian Rupiah). Alternatively a credit card (MasterCard) can be used (not a visa debit card). Make sure you are prepared for this on arrival!
• Indonesia is a Muslim country, and it is essential to take this into consideration when travelling. In particular it is considered polite to avoid obvious public eating during fasting periods, and to wear modest clothing when away from beach areas. This can vary quite dramatically depending on what area you are visiting, so it is always worth checking specific customs for where you plan to visit. This information is all handily available on the FCO’s travel advice pages!
• Some remote areas of Indonesia to not have a ready supply of ATM’s so if you plan to visit remote locations (including islands), it is vital to have enough cash to last for the duration of your stay away from the towns.
• Certain areas of Indonesia are classed as Malaria ‘Hot-Spots’ (For example, Gili Air). If you plan to travel to one of these areas, it is essential to take all anti-malarial precautions. If you’re unsure of the options the FCO again has all the information you need!
To stay informed of important travel warnings about Indonesia follow @FCOtravel on Twitter and like the ‘FCO Travel Advice’ page on Facebook.